Ideas of Timothy McGrew, by Theme

[American, fl. 2011, Professor at Western Michigan University.]

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13. Knowledge Criteria / A. Justification Problems / 3. Internal or External / a. Pro-internalism
Internalists are much more interested in evidence than externalists are
     Full Idea: The notion of evidence generally plays a much more significant role in internalist epistemologies than it does in various forms of externalism.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Prop..')
     A reaction: I'm guessing that this is because evidence needs a certain amount of interpretation, whereas raw facts (which externalists seem to rely on) may never even enter a mind.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 3. Evidentialism / a. Evidence
Does spotting a new possibility count as evidence?
     Full Idea: Does the sudden realization of a heretofore unrecognized possibility count as evidence?
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Evid..')
     A reaction: [Nice use of 'heretofore'! Why say 'previously' when you can keep these wonderful old English words alive?] This means that we can imagine new evidence ('maybe the murderer was a snake'!). Wrong. The evidence is what suggests the possibility.
Absence of evidence proves nothing, and weird claims need special evidence
     Full Idea: Two well know slogans (popularised by Carl Sagan) are 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence', ...and 'extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Absence')
     A reaction: [Sagan was a popular science writer and broadcaster] The second one is something like Hume's argument against miracles. The old problem of the 'missing link' for human evolution embodied the first idea.
Every event is highly unlikely (in detail), but may be perfectly plausible
     Full Idea: At a certain level of detail, almost any claim is unprecedented. How likely is 'Matilda won at Scrabble on Thursday with a score of 438 while drinking mint tea'? But there is nothing particularly unbelievable about the claim.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Extraordinary')
     A reaction: A striking idea, which rules out the simplistic idea that we can just assess evidence by its isolated likelihood. Context is crucial. How good is 438? What if she smoked opium? What if there is no Scrabble set on her island?
Criminal law needs two separate witnesses, but historians will accept one witness
     Full Idea: An ancient rule in law is that a criminal conviction needs evidence of two independent witnesses, but in history it is assumed that a document deserves the benefit of the doubt if it cannot be independently verified.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Interp..')
     A reaction: [compressed; McGrew's full account qualifies it a bit] A nice observation. One might even be suspicious of the two 'independent' witnesses, if there were lots of other reasons to doubt someon's guilt. A single weird document is also dubious.
Maybe all evidence consists of beliefs, rather than of facts
     Full Idea: Some philosophers have been attracted to the view that, strictly speaking, what counts as evidence is not a set of physical objects or even experiences, but rather a set of believed propositions.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Prop..')
     A reaction: This may be right. However, as always, I think animals are a key test. Do animals respond to evidence? Even if they did, they might need to 'make sense' of what they experienced, and even formulate a non-linguistic proposition.
If all evidence is propositional, what is the evidence for the proposition? Do we face a regress?
     Full Idea: Taking evidence as propositional may trade one problem for another. If the bloodstain isn't evidence, but 'this is a bloodstain' is evidence, then what serves as evidence for the belief about the bloodstain? Is there an infinite regress?
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Prop..')
     A reaction: [compressed] I quite like evidence being propositional, but then find this. I'll retreat to my beloved coherence. I do not endorse Sellars's 'only a belief can justify a belief', because raw experience has to be part of what is coherent.
Several unreliable witnesses can give good support, if they all say the same thing
     Full Idea: The testimony of a number of independent witnesses, none of them particularly reliable, who give substantially the same account of some event, may provide a strong argument in its favor.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Testimonial')
     A reaction: A striking point. It obviously works well for panicking people in a crowd during an incident. Does it also apply to independent scientists who are known to cheat? They may not collaborate, but may all want the same result.
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 3. Evidentialism / b. Evidentialism
Narrow evidentialism relies wholly on propositions; the wider form includes other items
     Full Idea: Evidentialism comes in both narrow and wide forms depending on whether evidence is taken to consist only of propositions or of a wider range of items.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Evid..')
     A reaction: [He cites Conee and Feldman for the wide view, which is not restricted to beliefs] You can hardly rely on occurrent beliefs as evidence, so we often have good knowledge with forgotten justification. But such knowledge has been 'weakened'.
14. Science / A. Basis of Science / 6. Falsification
Falsificationism would be naive if even a slight discrepancy in evidence killed a theory
     Full Idea: Data do not quite speak for themselves, which speaks against a naive form of falsificationism according to which even the slightest mismatch between theory and evidence suffices to overturn a theory.
     From: Timothy McGrew (Evidence [2011], 'Interp..')
     A reaction: [He cites Robert Boyle wisely ignoring some data to get a good fit for his graph]